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Injuries, Redemption, and a Blankey?? The Story of Allie Kiick

If I told you a player fought mono, a rare skin cancer, and four knee surgeries in a span of two years, do you think they would still be playing? Neither did I. But, miracles do happen. Allie Kiick has overcome so many obstacles in her career and at the age of 23 (yes, 23 years old), she has a bright future. Fresh off of her latest win in Sweden, and two back to back finals appearances, she has been having quite a successful 2018. 

We had the pleasure of sitting down and asking 10 questions about her comeback to the tour, her personal life and who she is as a professional tennis player.

When did you first fall in love with the game of tennis?

I first fell in love with the game of tennis when I was about 8-9 years old. I was involved in several different sports (flag football, soccer, softball, basketball), all of which were team sports and decided I wanted to try a non team sport. At first, my mom suggested swimming, which I learned really quickly wasn’t the sport for me. Her next suggestion was tennis where I fell in love the moment I picked up my first racket. 

What made you decide to go pro instead of playing in college

The decision to go pro over going to college was one of the toughest choices I’ve ever had to make in my life. My mom always wanted me to go to college because she felt it was such a big part of life. The ultimate deciding factor game down to a few tournaments leading up to signing my letter of intent to the University of Florida (Go Gators!). I had been doing really well, had some great success on the tour, and was making more than my expenses. So, when I was about 17 years old, I made the finals of a 50k and decided to take the full check causing me to officially lose my amateur status.

What is the hardest aspect of being a pro tennis player that doesn’t involve competition

Flying!!! I really have a fear of it, which is really unfortunate since tennis requires you to be on one almost every week. 

What helped you overcome the multitude of injuries that you have had

When I was injured my mom really pushed me to go to school and get a job teaching tennis. So, I enrolled in a college nearby, and took a full schedule. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I went from stressing about tennis matches to stressing about homework, tests, exams etc. It definitely sped up time and I made some amazing friends in the process of it all. I also learned that I have a great passion for medicine and hope to one day pursue a career in it after I’m done with tennis. During this time, I also worked a job teaching tennis to kids, which taught me so many different things that in the long run actually helped me on court when I returned to professional tennis. However, the biggest thing that helped me through this time, was simply the people I surrounded myself with: 

My coach and the USA fed cup captain, Kathy Rinaldi, was constantly there for me reminding me that I was going to come back better and stronger. I’ve known Kathy since I was 14 and I truly admire her. Her opinion means more to me than any other person in the world, so when I knew she believed in me, I started believing in myself.  

My mom was always the last person I saw before going back to surgery and the first person I saw when I woke up reminding me that I was almost there. She was always there to catch me before I fell. 

My three best friends Laura Wiley, Kristin Wiley, and Tangerine Manning, who got me through some of the darkest times in my life. They have been by my side through my best moments, but more importantly have been there for my worst. To them I’m Allie, with or without tennis, successful or not, they have always been there. Those kind of friends are very hard to come by. 

Growing up with a father who was a professional athlete, did that influence you in your decision to become a professional tennis player?

No, not really. I would say that coming from such an athletic family is the reason I decided to purse something in sports though. 

With two finals and one title in the past 2 months, is there anything specific you can say contributed to your success?

Absolutely! My coach Kathy and my fitness trainer Satoshi Ochi. They both have helped me so much on the court and in the gym since coming back to this sport. They essentially had to build me from scratch when I first came back and they are definitely the keys to my success. 

You have been a professional for the last five years...What has been the best moment of your career so far?

Oddly enough, I turned pro when I was 17 (and am now 23), yet I’ve only played on the tour 2 full years due to my injuries and stuff. But, in those two years, I would have to say qualifying for the US Open last year or winning the 25k just two weeks ago was probably the best moment of my career. Both of these really meant a lot to me because of everything I went through to get back there. The doctors weren’t even sure I’d be able to play tennis ever again yet somehow I was able to get back and qualify for the US Open and win a tournament. I beat the odds, and that to me is very special. 

What is one thing you cannot travel without on tour?

My BLANKEY. I need to take her everywhere I go or else I have a very hard time sleeping at night. I’m 23 and still have a blanket that I cannot live without. Tells a lot (lol).

What is one piece of advice you can give to aspiring pro players

My one piece of advice would be to simply chase your dreams. If you want something in life, you have got to be relentless no matter what comes your way!

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